Court grants provisional restraint order to freeze assets of accused in Kusile fraud case

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Hlakudi and his co-accused in court on Tuesday (NPA ID communications)
Hlakudi and his co-accused in court on Tuesday (NPA ID communications)
NPA ID communications"
  • The court granted a provisional restraint order valued at R1.4 billion.
  • The order related to Eskom officials and businessmen involved in corruption, fraud and money laundering at the Kusile Power Station.
  • The Eskom Files previously revealed how Eskom officials benefitted off payments from companies involved in the matter.

The Pretoria High Court this week issued a provisional restraint order to the tune of R1.4 billion against corruption-accused former senior Eskom official France Hlakudi, businessman Hudson Kgomoeswana as well as former major Eskom contractor Tubular Construction Projects, its CEO, Tony Trindade, and his wife - freezing their assets and bank accounts.

The group is facing corruption, money laundering and racketeering charges relating to kickbacks Tubular and its directors allegedly paid for, and on behalf of, Hlakudi, Babinatlou and Abram Masango.

ALSO READ | Threats and stones: How former Eskom exec allegedly influenced Kusile transport tenders

News24 previously reported that Kgomoeswana's company, Babinatlou Business Services, was used as an alleged money laundering entity, funded by major Eskom contractors, including Tubular.

The entity received at least R76 million in payments from the construction giants, including Tenova, Stefanutti Stocks and Esor Constructions, which were used to fund the lavish lives of senior Eskom officials, including Hlakudi and Masango.

Eskom executive Abram Masango.
Eskom executive Abram Masango.
Former Eskom executive France Hlakudi appears in t
Former Eskom executive France Hlakudi appears in the Pretoria Magistrate’s on August 25, 2020 in Pretoria.
Gallo Images Gallo Images/Beeld/Deaan Vivier

Hlakudi allegedly influenced claims negotiations processes at the Kusile Power Station, favouring some contractors and suppliers - who, in turn, made payments to Babinatlou. These payments helped bankroll the lifestyles of at least three senior Eskom officials, paying for cars, school fees, property and personal business interests.

"Hlakudi, Trindade, Masango and Kgomoeswana face charges of fraud and corruption in the R745 million criminal case, which the restraint order stems from. Kgomoeswana faces an additional charge of money laundering in that matter. One of the accused in both matters, Michael Lomas, is currently still in the United Kingdom, where his extradition hearing will commence on 20 December 2021 in the UK," Sindisiwe Seboka, spokesperson for the Investigating Directorate (ID), said in a statement on Tuesday.

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As part of the Eskom Files – an in-depth investigation into corruption at the Kusile Power Station – News24 reported on how senior Eskom officials unduly benefitted from the Babinatlou slush fund.

Law firm Bowmans, who worked in tandem with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), alleged that Babinatlou was a money laundering entity and, according to bank statements and invoices contained in the Eskom Files, Hlakudi and his colleagues used the money to personally benefit. 

Hlakudi used millions from Babinatlou to renovate his Moreleta Park house in Pretoria into a lavish mansion, while also kickstarting his poultry farming business.

Masango benefitted off a R645 000 down payment from Trindade for a house in a lush Mooikloof estate, as well as other luxuries from entities that sponsored the Babinatlou slush fund.

France Hlakudi's house.
France Hlakudi's house.

News24 also reported that Tubular and two of its subsidiaries, as well as Lomas and Trindade, paid R6.3 million to Babinatlou and R21.9 million to HTI, a company directed by Hlakudi between 2014 and 2017.

The charges the group face are related to these payments as well as Tubular's de-scoped contract for the installation of Air-Cooled Condensers (ACCs) at Kusile. 

The Eskom Files
The Eskom Files

According to Seboka, the court is still to decide whether the restraint order will include former Eskom Group Capital executive Masango.

The hearing on this matter is set down to be heard next month.

"The confirmations originate from the provisional restraint order handed down on 21 July 2021," Seboka said. 

The matter has suffered numerous delays in the Palm Ridge Specialised Crimes Court because of the accused changing lawyers at the last minute.

The matter is set to resume on Wednesday, 8 September.

- This investigation is brought to you by News24 in partnership with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.
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